Credit Cards

How to Get a Lower APR in a Tough Credit Market

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One of the first factors you may look for when shopping around for a credit card is a low interest rate. And if you’re in the market for a low APR credit card, you may be dismayed to find that they are fewer and farther between in recent years.

Many lenders have started raising interest rates and offering fewer good deals to consumers for a number of reasons, but the most immediate and significant of reasons is the tough economy. Many lenders are slashing available limits or raising interest rates to protect their financial position in a recovering economy. In addition, many consumers are struggling to meet their payment obligations, posing more risk to credit card issuers. These combined factors have prompted lenders to impose a barrage of changes, ranging from lower available credit limits to higher rates and fees. Although many of these changes are out of your control, there are a few steps you can take to lower the impact of these alterations.

[Related Article: Four Easy Credit Card Resolutions for 2012]

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1. Pay Your Bills
Lenders are hesitant to take on risky customers and may be more likely to slash their credit limits or raise rates for these individuals. So demonstrate to them that you are financially responsible by paying your credit card bills on time and keeping your credit balances low. Keeping your balances low will also improve your credit utilization rate—the ratio of debt you carry on your card to your available credit limit—which will help keep your credit score healthy.

2. Try To Negotiate
If your lender has scheduled a rate increase, try calling the company and asking them to keep your rate the same (here’s some advice on how to do that). In some cases, your lender may agree to maintain your current rate, especially if you have a strong payment history to back up your request.

[Free Resource: Check your credit for free before applying for a credit card]

3. Consider Closing Your Card
If you are unable to negotiate your interest rate and your lender is planning in increasing it, you have the option of closing your current account and shopping for a more affordable credit card. Keep in mind, however, that your credit score will take a hit if you close your account, so make sure it’s worth it before doing so (read more on the effect your debt ratio has on your credit score, as well as a credit-saving strategy should you consider closing your account). In addition, it’s imperative to pay off your balance in full or transfer your debt to a new card before you close your account.

4. Stick With It
If you are preparing for a big purchase, such as a new home or car, avoid making significant changes to your credit card account, which may damage your credit score or hurt your finances. Instead, pay off your balance and avoid making new purchases with the card.

[Credit Cards: Research and compare low APR credit cards at Credit.com]

Image: bandita, via Flickr.com

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